Minutes from endearing beach communities on the Oregon Coast and 30 minutes from Tillamook, Nehalem Bay State Park is a great base of operations for beach-lovers. For the low price of hoofing it across a dune, there is beach access immediately off the campground.
The activities available are a diverse bunch, virtually guaranteed to whet anyone's appetite. However, not all of them are accessible from the campground, so having some form of transportation is a definite plus. The park itself sports a bike path, paved roads suitable for rollerblades, spendy horse rides, and access to the beach via a short trail over a dune. One note of caution about accessing the beach from these trails: I never saw a sign indicating the way back to the park, so either take a good, long look back at the way you came or bring some flagging. The beach is a sandy beach while is even accessible at high tide. Granted, you have less beach to access, but you still have beach!
Within a brief drive, you have a variety of attractions. Oswald West State Park and others offer the classic opportunity to poke around in tidepools. If you do go tidepooling, simply remember to be courteous to the creatures and their homes, keeping in mind they want to stay. The community of Nehalem and others along Highway 101 offer the charming little beach shops one can go poking around in to find antiques, mass-produced knick-knacks from China, or locally created crafts. Though it was a bit tricky, we located Sarah Jo's Candy in Nehalem and will make it a tradition to pick up some of the delicious peanut brittle they hand-make! Finally, if you're like me and the thought of sand mushing around in your sock is a distasteful side effect of being near the ocean, there are several hikes within a brief drive. My favorite is up Neah-Kah-Nie Mountain - the view at the top is amazing, and the journey is a heart-pumping workout. Activities here earn a 4, considering you do have to leave the park for many of them.
Much to my chagrin, there's not a tent space to be had in the entire park. It's all yurts or hook-ups, which means you pay a premium. Generally speaking, the individual sites tend to be plenty spacious, well-tended, and possessed of some shade, though not full shade. Between the sites, there are a few trees, but you really don't have any expectation of privacy here. It seemed as if selecting a site close to the dune helped in sheltering you from some of the coastal wind. Each site is equipped with a mobile table, firepit, water spigot, and electricity. Bathrooms with flush toilets and warm water are within a short walk. Playgrounds are available within the park for the young ones.
When considering my rating for this section, I referenced my original post and kept in mind that on this blog, we're looking specifically at the value of a park for tent campers. A 1 signifies "no attempt made," which seems to be accurate if you enjoy sequestering yourself in tent sites without electricity. If you're in a trailer, the sites would be lovely, but for those of us tent dwellers, a 1 in this category is representative.
The bathrooms were clean with a constant presence of some sand on the floor. However, comparing this to most day use or overnight bathrooms along the coast, it wasn't the sand pit most of them tend to be. I never spotted any litter, and the grounds were well-kept. Rangers and hosts alike were both helpful and friendly. A strong showing in the category merits a 4.5.
Based on the fact you are forced to pay a premium for electricity or a yurt you're not going to use, this category will also be a place the park is hit hard. Generally speaking, it was well-kept and offered a number of great activities to take part in along the coast. However, considering the price one must pay for a site here, I'd rate the overall value at a 2, given the number of campgrounds the coast has to offer.
All sites are equipped with a mobile table, firepit, water, and electricity. Waste water stations are near each site. Centralized garbage disposal is available, along with recycling, but only items you'd be able to put in a typical mixed rollcart. Just down the road, there is a transfer station that provides a greater number of recycling opportunities, including propane canisters. I know this is a bit geeky, but if you'll just bear with my Master Recycler self, I recommend a visit anyway - it's an incredible disposal area, staffed by an army of volunteers that really helps with recycling needs as well as setting aside items that have potential for reuse. Back on topic, Nehalem Bay does accept reservations. Insects with a taste for human flesh were present, though not aggressive. We saw crows, chipmunks, golden eagles, birds I believe were a variety of loon, seagulls, and deer.
Visa, Mastercard, check, and cash are accepted forms of payment. As with all Oregon State Parks, reservations can be made through Reserve America. Flush toilets, showers, and hot/cold sinks are available. Everywhere I went, cell phone reception was good.
How hard is it to find?
Finding the State Park was simple enough, though it's slightly more tucked away than your average park. We missed the sign directing us to the campground, so we toured the day use areas prior to arriving at our site. Head to Nehalem on Highway 101 and turn onto Manzanita Avenue. Take a left on Classic Street and follow it south as it turns into Gary Street and it'll plop you right into the park. Just keep an eye out for those sneaky campground signs!
Will you go back?
The annual family camping trip was shifted from Cape Lookout to Nehalem Bay due to concerns over rapidly disappearing beach, so yes. However, left to my own devices, I would not visit a second time, though I must admit the beach is not my favorite biome.
If you're looking for a modern campground to stay at while you explore the Oregon Coast, Nehalem Bay is a sound choice. If you're looking to combine your beach visit with the ability to spend your down time in quiet contemplation of your surroundings, free from the whirring of pumps and overheard re-runs, I would suggest you keep looking. Overall, this park wound up with a composite score of 2.6.
**I believe photos for this one are on my hubby's SLR. I'll get them up as soon as possible!